A Coincidental Conversation about Codependency (and more) with Ross Rosenberg

Funny how things work, isn’t it?

How coincidences so often are anything but?

Like recently, when I came across a YouTube video by Ross Rosenberg, a psychotherapist, author, speaker, and trainer, among other roles.

I was out for a run, listening to videos (yes, I know, I used to listen to Led Zeppelin while working out, and now I listen to self-help, biography, and other videos – I guess I am officially old).

Anyway, that’s when I came across Ross. And what I heard stuck.

Why was I watching? Because, in addition to being a writer and speaker myself, I have been on my own transformation “journey” for several decades now. You see, I grew up a people pleaser with codependent behaviors. And though the term “people pleaser” sounds relatively benign, being one is anything but. In fact, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

Well, maybe them. But no one else.

So, here came the coincidences.

Coincidence #1. Not only did it seem like Ross knew my personal story, but he openly shared his own challenges, and I could tell that he was passionately compassionate for those trying to heal from codependency. Plus, when I looked him up, I saw that not only does he own the Self-Love Recovery Institute, but that he also owned Clinical Care Consultants in Arlington Heights, Illinois, not far from where I live.

After that, I picked up his best-selling book, The Human Magnet Syndrome, and quickly came across Coincidence #2. In the Introduction, he mentions that he had a pivotal moment in his adult transformation when attending a Men’s Day conference at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Illinois, in 2005.

I spoke at that conference.

Coincidence #3. Later in the book, he writes about how when he was a teenager, in 1978, his parents placed him in a mental health facility for a 90-day drug treatment program, though he actually thought he’d be going to an REO Speedwagon concert that night after a one-hour counseling session there.

I was at that concert.

I have learned to follow coincidences like that. For great truths that way lie.

So, I contacted Ross. And we talked. And talked. And, as he said, it was like finding “a brother from another mother.”

Here are my top five takeaways from the conversation:

  • Changing ourselves means first admitting we need to change. Yes, I know that will ring several bells for anyone familiar with Twelve-Step programs, but that doesn’t make it any less true. As Ross explained, after he had gone through challenging times, he had to finally make the decision to change. “At one point,” Ross explains, “I had to say, ‘This is where I came from, this is what I’m struggling with, and this is who I am.’ Until I did those things, I could not move forward. And in doing them, I have received incredible support from a worldwide community, and just as important, I wasn’t judged.”

  • To heal a sick tree, you start with the roots. “You can’t solve a problem if you’re only treating the symptom,” Ross shared. “Many people think that, if you are codependent, the issue is that you’re dependent on how someone else feels, thinks and behaves. But, really, people are codependent for reasons much deeper than that. Namely, that they are trying to escape pervasive feelings of shame and loneliness and the lack of love brought on from how they were raised. If you want to really solve the problem, that is where you need to start – to learn how to give yourself the love and attention you did not receive as children. That’s why, when I talk about codependency, I dig deeper into the foundational issue of Self-Love Deficit Disorder. So, in all, it is not about an addiction to a specific person, but addiction to relationships in general to try to not feel so alone and ashamed.”

  • Codependency recovery should come with a warning. In his work, Ross does not sugarcoat things. He lets his clients, readers and followers know that recovering love of self will be hard, very hard. And that there will likely be a lot of conflict faced and relationships lost along the way.

    That’s why he created a “Surgeon’s General Warning for Codependency Recovery.” To help people prepare. “In recovery,” Ross says, “they’ll like shed many of their relationships.” After all, those past relationships are likely based on them being inauthentic so when they become more authentic, those depending on their inauthenticity probably won’t like it. “By understanding this warning,” Ross continues, “they will not be as surprised when things happen, like losing relationships or having to face storms of conflict, and they’ll be more resilient. It’s also why I let my clients know when they’re making progress, and to not give up if they happen to relapse into old behaviors.” As Ross explains, recovery is a long road but one worth walking.

  • Having good mental health does not mean you don’t struggle. “A big misconception,” Ross says, “is that having good mental health means you have an absence of problems. But that’s not true. Good mental health means that someone has the internal resources to manage their problems, and if they don’t, to seek external resources to help them manage.” Thinking that we’re the only ones who struggle can compound the issue, so it’s good to know what the real yardstick is.

  • Recovery involves helping others. Ross made a point during our conversation of saying that part of his healing involves being a leader. “I do believe that once we begin to learn how to love ourselves, to heal” Ross says, “that it then becomes our responsibility to help others do the same,” though they ultimately must admit they need to change and take responsibility for doing so. If they don’t, as Ross advises, it won’t work.

Which brings me to the final coincidences.

Coincidence #4. As I said, I’m a speaker and writer. But I’m also a musician and adjunct professor. A man with many roles. Like Ross.

Finally, recently, I wrote a song called “Do you remember?” It’s about remembering the sound of our own voice, the voice that, for many, was lost in childhood.” After talking with Ross, and sharing the song with him, I realized that remembering our own voice is about recovering and loving ourselves.

And remember, that Ross is the founder of the Self-Love Recovery Institute.

Yes, Coincidence #5.

Point. Set. Match.

Thanks, Universe. I can take a hint.


Editor’s Notes:

1) Ross also has an audiovisual and technical background – yes, a man of many, many roles – and he graciously enhanced the production of “Do you remember?” for me. Thanks, Ross.

2) You can also learn more about attachment trauma, transformation, codependency and other important mental health topics by visiting the websites of Kyle Cease, Michelle Farris, Dr. Nicole LePera and Lisa Romano.


Contact me at james@jameswarda.com and learn more at jameswarda.com.

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